Fixing up `Wren Box'

Dream Home

Real Estate

August 25, 2006|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Bel Air couple updates English-style cottage with Doric columns not far from Main Street Long before they were married, when Robert and Donna Kahoe were growing up in Bel Air, nearly everyone in town knew of the charming stone cottage nestled into a tree-lined way just off Main Street.

With its sloped roof and four large wooden Doric columns holding up the front porch overhang, it had always been called the Wren Box, a name given by a former owner. The date, 1917, is engraved in concrete on the second-story, outside chimney.

Seven years ago, housing sales were slow in Bel Air, according to Robert Kahoe, a 56-year-old attorney.

Wren Box "was on the market seven or eight months," he recalled. "Hundreds of people went through it."

The Kahoes were enthralled with the English-style cottage constructed of granite from a nearby quarry; thrilled, too, with its white wood trim, original windows, and its placement off the street on a quarter-acre of tall trees. Robert Kahoe points to an imposing one in the front yard, known as a "Kentucky Coffee" tree; it is, he said, the tallest tree in town.

The couple purchased the house for $160,000 in 1999.

"The house was very well-preserved," noted Donna Kahoe, 46, a paralegal with T. Rowe Price in downtown Baltimore. "All of the wrought-iron hardware, wooden floors and glass doorknobs are original."

The Kahoes estimate a total of $160,000 invested in upgrades to their cottage. The work included central air conditioning, a brick patio on the house's north side, a new bathroom and powder room, a new roof on the carriage house, furniture, landscaping, and most recently, a completely redecorated kitchen.

The Kahoes moved slowly on the 1,500 square feet of indoor space.

"We did little things at first, to get the feel of the house," Donna Kahoe said of the place she could easily picture in Tuscany.

Her husband, speaking on the practical side, pointed out that "the local Preservation Commission is very strict," and there are specific guidelines to be followed on the outside of the house. They both pointed out the use of paving brick on the patio, laid in gracious circles, as an example.

Determined to "showcase this house as it was always meant to be," Donna Kahoe began with the downstairs dining room. They were fascinated with two arched doors leading to the kitchen, the upper half consisting of glass with wooden tracery design, much like a Colonial church window.

With the arched doors as focal point, the couple chose Mission-style furniture with an oak dining table taking center stage in the room. A six-candle brass chandelier hangs above the table, softly illuminating the sand-colored, painted walls that have been accented in the white paint of the doors, floor and ceiling molding.

With every consideration to the living room's layout, roughly 25 feet wide by 50 feet long, Donna Kahoe has carefully chosen her seating arrangement around a fireplace.

Four traditional barrel chairs covered in beige damask, with a tone-on-tone floral print, sit in front of a brick fireplace, creating a comfortable and inviting conversation area.

A sunroom presents a welcoming, bright appeal, with 12 large, multipaned windows on three sides of the 50-foot-long space. A stone fireplace, opposite the living room hearth, features a built-in stove for cold weather warmth.

The four rooms on the second level have been, for the most part, decorated in Mission-style design, their furniture placed within the slopes of ceilings and nooks created by dormered windows.

The Kahoes' current renovation, the kitchen, has been reworked consistent with the architectural design throughout the rest of the house. Cabinets painted white, with multipaned glass doors, hang from the center of the room, atop granite counter space.

Ceramic floor tile, in beige and rose pastels, punctuate the warmth of soft yellow walls.

The satisfaction of major jobs well done is evident on the couple's faces.

"This will be our house for many years," Robert Kahoe remarked proudly. "We didn't buy with resale in mind."

Have you found your dream home?

Tell us about it. Write to Dream Home, Real Estate Editor, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, or e-mail us at

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.